For a city with so much mythical and cultural baggage, Athens is surprisingly modern. Sure, there are Byzantine churches tucked among the tightly knit apartments and the Parthenon looms into view around nearly every corner. But come expecting a living postcard and you’ll be in for a shock. Three million people are crammed into this hectic, 24-hour city. Yet there’s an intimacy to the way life is lived outdoors in neighborhood squares, rooftop bars, and balconies where neighbors gossip in their nighties. And there’s an irrepressible energy that has propelled Athens through a decade of austerity to become southern Europe’s most happening cultural capital.
Enter, The Modernist Athens.
I love places with a past and stories to tell. The Modernist Athens settled into the former Canadian Embassy on a quiet street that overlooks a leafy residential square in Kolonaki. They transformed the handsome corner building with its many balconies in signature Modernist style, combining casual, contemporary luxury with mid-century detailing and minimalist Danish design. It’s the perfect port of call for constant travelers who know how to live in the moment and are at home wherever they set down their bag. Flying light and often solo, expecting seamless comforts, a bit of local buzz, and highly professional yet completely unpretentious service, you’ll find nothing less than everything you need at the Modernist Athens.
This hotel, sister property to The Modernist Thessaloniki, stands out for its sleek, minimalist design and collaborations with local creatives, from original cocktails and DJ-curated playlists to handmade ceramics. It’s in the central Kolanaki neighborhood. Opposite a small park in the upscale Kolanki neighborhood, the hotel is less than 10 minutes’ walk from some of the city’s top museums and galleries, including the National Gallery and the Museum of Cycladic Art. Central Syntagma Square and the buzzing restaurants and bars of the Plaka neighborhood are a 20-minute walk. Evangelismos metro station is at the end of the road; it’s only two stops to the Acropolis.
Greek entrepreneur owner Kostis Karatzas tasked Thessaloniki-based architecture and interiors studio FORMrelated with transforming the old Canadian Embassy into a hotel. The 1950s corner building has been painted dark grey and, inside, the look is contemporary and minimalist. The walls of the lobby are black; the ground-floor restaurant has custom-designed marble-topped tables, brass ceiling lights and black leather banquette seating. The music in the public spaces has been curated by Athens DJ Spilios Christopoulos (aka Palov).
All the staff at reception are friendly and knowledgeable about Athens, and can help with everything from recommendations for hip bars to private transfers.
The rooftop bar, with views of the Acropolis in the distance, is the best spot for sunset cocktails: place your order on the retro phone at the top of the marble stairs. Next to the lobby is a small shop which sells, among other things, bathroom amenities, espresso cups and handmade brass pens. There’s also a meeting room and a small stylish basement gym.
There are 38 rooms split into four categories: S, M, L, XL. All have a similar style: timber floors and white walls combined with black custom-designed wooden furniture and ceilings, leather bed heads and brass details on the shelving. There’s a Nespresso machine and handmade cups by Athens-based Open Studio Ceramics, a docking station, robes and slippers. Good size monochrome bathrooms (no baths) come with amenities by third-generation Thessaloniki pharmacy, Physis Laboratory. Medium rooms upwards have a balcony; extras in the three XL rooms include a drinks trolley, record player and outdoor hot tub.
The help-yourself breakfast buffet has something for everyone: bagels and pancakes, cheeses and hams, as well as Greek specialties (feta, olives, cheese pie). Eggs any style can be made to order. The organic ginger and lemongrass tea blend is a collaboration with Greek brand Rhoeco. After breakfast, there’s a simple, healthy all-day salad ‘bowls’ menu which includes salmon (served with courgette, carrot, noodles, beetroot and corn) and beef nicoise. The drinks list features eight signature cocktails specially designed by Nikos Bakoulis, co-founder of Athens’ celebrated bar, The Clumsies.